Daily Digest: Pawlenty has a couple of good weeks

Good morning, and welcome to Wednesday. Here’s the Digest.

1. Pawlenty leads fundraising race. Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Pawlenty dwarfed all rivals in recent fundraising and has almost $1 million at the ready, making him the most flush of any candidate in either party. Newly filed campaign fundraising reports cover the first three months of the year. Pawlenty didn’t start raising money until mid-March. But he was able to crack the million-dollar barrier and has most of that in reserve. His report shows a bevy of $4,000 donations, the maximum allowed. It is about 10 times what his closest Republican rival collected over the same fundraising period. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson raised about $110,000, and including some carryover money from 2017, had $210,000 in the bank as of the end of March. Further back were Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens, former Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey and Naval reservist Phillip Parrish. On the DFL side, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz  raised more than a half million dollars, and counting money from last year, had $628,000 on hand as of April 1. Behind him was State Auditor Rebecca Otto, whose campaign had about $150,000 saved up after raising about that much and loaning herself an additional $20,000. In third was state Rep. Erin Murphy, who had about $73,000 in available cash after raising $121,000. (MPR News)

2. Thissen headed to state supreme court. Former House Speaker Paul Thissen will take a seat on Minnesota’s Supreme Court as Gov. Mark Dayton’s probable final selection to the state’s highest judicial body. Dayton named Thissen on Tuesday, calling him “a committed public servant and one of the sharpest legal minds in our state.” Thissen, a lawyer and DFL state legislator from Minneapolis, previously said he would step down after this term in the Legislature. He ended a second campaign for Minnesota governor after a disappointing showing in the February precinct caucuses. For Dayton, it was his sixth pick to the Supreme Court. One justice left for a federal appointment, so that means Dayton’s appointments occupy five of the seven seats. Thissen, who is 51, could potentially serve for almost two decades before reaching the mandatory retirement age. The seat came open when Justice David Stras, an appointee of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, was confirmed for a U.S. Court of Appeals post. Thissen has served 16 years in the Minnesota House, including two as House speaker. (MPR News)

3. Republicans attack Dayton’s budget. Republicans in the House and Senate Tuesday criticized the plan from DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, which he released a month ago. They fed off the administration’s own analysis that assesses the plan’s impact. Delivered to lawmakers Monday, the study finds potential tax increases at all income levels if the Legislature passed Dayton’s proposed budget in its entirety. The analysis combines the effects of proposed tax cuts with the extension of a tax on medical services that was supposed to expire next year. Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said the whole picture is what matters. “Taxpayers don’t have a tax bill pocket and a health and human services pocket,” he said. “They’ve got one wallet and one purse.” Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly told the House Taxes Committee that the continuation of an existing tax shouldn’t be regarded as a tax increase. “The extension of the provider tax will not result in Minnesotans paying a dollar more than they are paying today in taxes,” she said. (MPR News)

4. Daudt was on trip with Ohio lawmaker who stepped down. Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt is among Republican legislative leaders from various states who took part in a London summer trip with lobbyists. An Ohio speaker recently resigned citing questioning by federal investigators about his activities. Daudt, Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos, Michigan Speaker Tom Leonard and North Dakota House Majority Leader Al Carlson were at the four-day event with Republican Ohio Speaker Cliff Rosenberger last August. The event was sponsored and paid for by the GOPAC Education Fund’s Institute for Leadership Development. GOPAC works to elect Republicans to higher office. The politicians emphasized the money for the trip did not come from taxpayers, said they were not lobbied during the event and said they had complied with ethics laws in their states. Rosenberger, who quit last week, had been criticized for his lavish lifestyle, including traveling around the world and staying in a luxury downtown Columbus condo owned by a wealthy Republican donor. He has said he believes his actions as speaker were “ethical and lawful.” (AP via Pioneer Press)

5. Former FBI agent pleads guilty to leaking secret information. A former agent with the FBI’s Minneapolis division pleaded guilty Tuesday to two federal offenses of unlawfully transmitting and retaining classified documents. Terry Albury, who was assigned as Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport liaison working on counterterrorism matters, was charged last month by the Justice Department’s National Security Division with one count of “knowingly and willfully” transmitting documents and information relating to national defense to a reporter for a national news organization. Albury was also charged with a second count of refusing to hand over documents to the government “related to use of an online platform for recruitment by a specific terrorist group.” Albury, 39, who now lives in northern California, towered over his lawyers who stood next to him during the plea hearing. He was soft spoken, and judge Wilhelmina Wright told him at one point: “I need you to keep your voice up. I need to hear you.” Albury became the second person charged with leaking secret documents to The Intercept, an online news organization. (MPR News)

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